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Space Science

Voyager Probes Give Us ET's View 166

astroengine writes "For the first time, scientists have been able to measure a type of radiation streaming out from the Milky Way that in other galaxies has been linked to the birthplaces of young, hot stars. There was no way to make our own galaxy's measurement of the radiation, known as Lyman-alpha, until the Voyager probes were about 40 times as far away from the sun as Earth — any closer and the solar system's own emissions drowned out the fainter glow from the galaxy."
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Voyager Probes Give Us ET's View

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  • by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @05:15AM (#38235478)

    Launched today they would not do much .... they relied on a chance alignment of the planets that allowed them to use gravitational slingshots to get there in a reasonable time, tour most of the planets, and leave the solar system ... next time this will happen is around 2150 ...

  • Re:So Cool... (Score:5, Informative)

    by agentgonzo ( 1026204 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:13AM (#38235682)
    Unfortunately not. Milky way's escape velocity is approx 525km/s (wikipedia) and voyager and our solar system are moving at approx 18km/s (Monty Python Song [youtube.com]). Unless it happens to get flung out of the galaxy by the impending collision with Andromeda in 3-5 billion years it's not going to be leaving the Milky way anytime soon. It'll just float around in the vicinity of the solar system and go around the Milky way.
  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:16AM (#38235690)

    The only thing consequentially different is computer capability, but a faster/more complex computer would just as likely be a liability as a bonus. Software design techniques, if anything, have gone rapidly backwards for this sort of application since the late 70s/early 80s.

    Thankfully, some of our/your assumptions about space technology are currently being proven wrong. For instance, take the Nexus One. NASA has been testing it to see if it could make cheaper smaller satellites with it, and its performance in that regard has been completely outstanding.

    Granted, it hasn't survived 30 years in space yet, only time will tell on that one.

    But it can survive in all kinds of extreme temperatures, all kinds of G forces, and it works perfectly well in a vacuum. And it's so small to begin with, the extra hardware it needs to power it, recharge it, move it, etc, doesn't have to be that big to begin with.

    During one of its space test, the Nexus One was even strapped to the tip of a rocket and the rocket accidentally crashed back into the desert leaving a large crater, but the phone only got a cracked screen and was still fully functional otherwise.

    And this is probably something that's not unique to that phone, or to Android, in particular. Consumer-grade devices, because they've been designed to survive actual consumers and sometimes even little kids, have come a long way in terms of reliability.

    And granted, a Nexus One will still have bugs that would normally be intolerable in the older type of computers designed for space, but it has enough computing power to be reprogrammed remotely and compensate for most bugs that are found after the fact. And since they take much less space and weight, and are much cheaper to launch. You can launch half a dozen for a fraction of the cost it used to launch an older type of satellite, thus building a type of redundancy that we just couldn't afford to have with the older kind.

    So if anything needs to improve, it's probably not our technology, but our mindset. We have good technology. That technology may not be perfect, but it should be more than good enough for unmanned space exploration at least. And it's grand time we start using it for that purpose.

  • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @07:53AM (#38235958) Homepage

    The distance at which the Voyagers are still collecting and transmitting useful data back to Earth, is mind boggling. Over a light day away!

    Uh? 120 AU is only 0.7 light days. And if that's far depends on perspective, it's 0.05% of the way to the closest star. Somehow the Mars rovers have been a lot more visual in saying that yes, we can do interplanetary with their cameras. The Voyager probes are more of a reminder that interstellar is a completely different ballgame. Thirty three years and 18 billion kilometers out yet it's still gotten nowhere in interstellar terms. Though it's fun to see them still operational and still doing science...

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:20AM (#38236292) Homepage

    A couple or three pounds of lead and a steel cage to protect against EMI/RFI I think is all that is needed.

    At the high gamma energies found in space, lead is no better than aluminum as a gamma shield [wikipedia.org], and both are pretty anemic. 1 cm of either will attenuate high energy gamma rays by only about 50-70%.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:03AM (#38236516)

    ESI is the way (as I said, sans gravity well effects), generation of electrical power is somebody else's problem. As you've pointed out, solar is useless as a source for deep space probes; self contained generation of power is the only option, and right now all we have is RTG. This is what ion engines have used in every practical application so far (examples that spring to mind are SERT I and II, and DS1) and until something better comes along, it'll continue to be a sink for RTGs in deep space exploration. As to your claim that there are no RTGs available: I could build a crude but functional one in about five minutes (if I had a pellet of [insert name of suitable isotope here]), and it's not as if we're short of radioisotopes suited for the task. The problem lies in a particular nation state unilaterally and unjustifiably denying any other from possessing any quantity of refined radioisotopes for any reason other than the manufacture of smoke alarms. That nation state continues to throw RTGs all over the Arctic in the name of science and monitoring the military movements of others without the need to lay thousands of miles of power lines, and there is far more than the Apollo 13 RTG sitting at the bottom of the ocean - the Atlantic passive SOSUS net buoys are all RTG powered (there is very little sunlight three miles underwater).

  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:07AM (#38237368)

    There's nothing to crack. An interplanetary mission is pretty much the ultimate in security through obscurity. You won't have a clue what to send until you get a backseat worth of documentation. That's all that's to it.

  • by jcgam69 ( 994690 ) on Friday December 02, 2011 @01:14PM (#38239542)
    On March 31, 2006, the amateur radio operators from AMSAT in Germany tracked and received radio waves from Voyager 1 using the 20-meter (66 ft) dish at Bochum with a long integration technique. Retrieved data was checked and verified against data from the Deep Space Network station at Madrid, Spain.[22] This is believed to be the first such tracking of Voyager 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_1 [wikipedia.org]

I've got a bad feeling about this.